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Clerel has truly outdone himself already as he rises up in the world of music. Cameroon-born, Montreal-based artist whose music embodies the essence of Leon Bridges, Sam Cooke, and Marvin Gaye, this up-and-coming artist is charming us with his good looks, beautiful voice, and powerful soul. Using his music for the good times and the hard times, Clerel’s music is also a “rolling record of my daydreams,” as he puts it. Keep reading on and discover more of this young and talented artist!

Share with us the first time you ever performed. What was it like? Who was there? How were you feeling?

In my last year in university, I was approached by a friend asking me if I would be willing to represent their sorority in an event on campus, wherein different men representing different sororities would compete in a talent show to raise funds for a nonprofit organization, with admission open to all.

For the performance portion of the evening, I chose to perform a song I’d grown up listening to, titled “Dernière Danse” by a french band named Kyo. It’s a beautiful, yet simple song which had been one of the first few I’d learned on the guitar a couple years prior… The show was taking place in the university chapel. I had little solo performing experience – certainly none on such a stage, but I’d performed on the same stage before as part of the University choir. Because of this, I’d felt little anxiety going into it.

That said, the day of the event, waiting behind the stage, and hearing the cheers from what sounded like a full house, I couldn’t help but feel nervous. I was the third act up. My name got called, and I walked out to the stage, which now felt bigger and more intimidating than ever before. I looked out at the dozens of faces, many of which I did not recognize, nestled in plush red seats and eagerly staring back… I tried to collect myself, closed my eyes and let the music take over…

The few seconds of silence after I finished felt like forever until the whole room suddenly broke out in loud, sustained applause, which was pretty much the best feeling I’d experienced at that point! To be honest, it felt hard to believe, as I had not really expected such a response to my singing, which had more or less been a private pastime up to that point… Although I did not end up winning the talent show that night, the show still felt very much like a victory to me. I received compliments about that show for days afterward from people I didn’t even know. A taste of celebrity…

Who was the first person you ever sang for? What was their initial reaction?

I remember singing a song from a CD I’d been listening to to a school friend over landline phone. I’d been binge listening to it, and at the end of one of our frequent phone study sessions, I’d sung it to him as a way to “show” it to him (The Internet and YouTube were yet a few years away). I honestly don’t remember his reaction, although I probably would have ascribed it to the song itself, more so than my specific voice.

The first reaction I remember is a nanny’s. I’d spent an entire afternoon singing along -loudly- to some cassette tapes in our living room, and walking by she told me she thought I had a great voice and I ought to keep on singing. It was a surprise because I did not really think of my voice in that way – I was just having fun.  That moment stayed with me.

Tell us more about your songs. What inspired you to write them?

My initial inspiration is all the music I love, that always feels like a best friend turning up at a moment’s notice to say exactly what you need to hear.

As a songwriter, my songs are a place I can pour some of the intense feelings I have that might be difficult to process otherwise. They also serve as a rolling record of my daydreams.

If you could go back in time and perform with any artist, who would it be and why?

There are a few such artists. These days I’d say Earth, Wind & Fire, because of their joyful and uplifting energy. My real fantasy, though, would be to perform with a symphonic orchestra!

Share with us something about yourself that most people do not know.

I majored in Chemistry in college.

If you could be an instrument, which would you be? Explain.

A bass guitar! There’s something both grounding and sensual about the low end. I’ve always been attracted to the lower voices in harmony, although I turned out to have a lighter voice myself.

How has your family played a part in your career? Have they always been supportive of it? What was the family dynamic like?

I’m the eldest of three, and my sister was the first of us to sing in public. We’d go to restaurants and she’d end up taking the stage over for the night.

Music as a pleasure was very much cultivated in us from a young age. I learned how to sing by trying to imitate my grandmother’s singing. It mattered to my parents that we educate ourselves to keep our options open, but I’ve only ever received constant amounts of support and encouragement from them.

What do you hope two accomplish both as an artist and individual?

To be living my musical truths while having a positive impact on people in my community.

Talent Clerel @clerel

Photo Richard Bernardin @richardbernardinphoto
Interview Alexandra Bonnet @alexbonnetwrites